How I Got 410 Marks in Physics in CSE 2011 by KUNAL SILKU, IAS

This has been my 3rd attempt with in UPSC and my 2nd Mains with Physics. But during this period I realized one thing that getting 370+ in Physics is not difficult and it does not even need a preparation of more than 6-8 months. What is needed is the right strategy which most of us either don’t realize, or realize after 1-2 years like me. I will divide my discussion in 2 parts. One for the freshers who have almost no background of Physics and Second for those who have read the syllabus atleast once.

Strategy for Freshers
As a fresher, first of all you must not panic by seeing the columns and columns of syllabus. I guess here the role of Vajpeyi Sir is maximum. You must join some good coaching and try to get your concepts clear. Vajpeyi sir is pretty good in this and he creates a nice framework which provides the foundation for further preparation. However in coaching there will be instances when you will feel that you know nothing and others are knowing a lot. Trust me it is not the matter of intellect but just time. You might be fresher while they might have background. During initial phase just concentrate on classes. Try to read the books and make your own concepts and try and solve difficult questions from last 10 year papers. Don’t try to memorize derivations at this stage. And don’t give more than 5 hours for Physics in this stage .Keep reading GS and other optional also. This stage will be over in about 3.5 month time.
Strategy for those who have read syllabus atleast once

After this stage comes the stage of self preparation which varies for each student and I guess it is here that many people make mistakes. I will suggest the following strategy at this stage. You must start topics one by one and dedicate almost 10 days for it. Here you must try to learn concepts and derivations in first 6 days and then solve maximum problems in last 4 days. Your reading time can be 4 hours and question solving 3 hours. Naturally you will left with less time for other optional. So plan accordingly. Considering that there are 8 topics, this stage should be over in 3 months. Then you can proceed to the last phase of cracking the exam.

Strategy for Cracking the exam with 370+ marks
By this time you must have been over with pre and there is pressure of syllabus. Therefore you are not supposed to devote more than 3-4 hours for Physics. At this stage the first thing that needs to be done is choosing your 3 optional questions in each paper and making a first fallback plan. My strategy here was as follows In Paper 1 I choose to do Heat and Thermodynamics (Question 8), Optics (Question 4) and STR with optics (Question 3). They were my prime targets.

For fallbacks in section 1 I had Mechanics. (However the chances of using this fallback were less considering I was already doing 2 questions from this section and at times of difficulty can always shift to section 2 for two questions.)
For fallback in section 2 , My first choice was electricity and magnetism (Question 6) and second was EMT.
Regarding EMT I would like to add that this is one topic that gives maximum marks (80%) if done correctly. However here is the deception. There are fare chances of you forgetting the derivations in between and ruining up your attempt. Also since the derivations are naturally long, they take more time in writing and eat into the time of other questions. Therefore, It was my last choice.
So as you can see, I eliminated Mechanics and EMT from my target list and saved considerable time to prepare other topics well.

This time I did question 4, 6, and 8 and got 204 marks. (Attempt 290). In Paper 2 I chose to do Nuclear Physics (Question 6), Molecular Physics (Question 4) and Quantum Physics (Question 2).
My fallback in section 1 was Angular Momentum and Atomic Physics (Question 3).
However since I did not have a strong fallback in section 2, I read all 3 questions with same intensity in order to eliminate the chances of not able to do 2 questions from section1. But still you can avoid Question 3. In Section 2 I did not have any fallback and I was totally dependent on Nuclear Physics. Therefore I invested considerable time in it and read it in great detail. Still reading Nuclear was much less than covering electronics and solid state with certainty. But here those of you who can prepare one question out of Question 7 or 8, it is a great respite. In exam I did Question 3,4 and 6 and got 206 marks (Attempt 280).
After choosing your prime and fallback questions you need to prepare accordingly. Pay more attention and practice profusely for your prime targets and give sufficient time for 1st fallback. 2nd fallback can be neglected a bit and that time can be devoted in preparing the small compulsory questions from all topics.
I personally did not pay much attention to Mechanics, EMT and Solid state and Electronics with not touching Electronics at all. It did cost me a simple compulsory circuit question. But I guess I saved considerable time for preparing my other parts extremely well.

Last Strategy 
In the last phase do not remain confined to one topic trying to finish it completely. That way you will always keep on forgetting the parts read earlier. Make a list of all difficult derivations and questions that you tend to forget from all topic and try to solve then randomly i:e one question can be from optics, second from Quantum and third can be from statistical. Try to become holistic at the end. It really helps a lot in the gap that you get between exam.

What is a Good answer?
In Physics just solving the paper is not important. The same attempt can score anything between 50% to 80%.
If you have attempted the question correctly you generally get 50%-55% marks . The remaining marks are for your presentation which can be as follows
1. You must always try to draw a neat diagram in the starting.
2. Before starting the question you must always give some background explaining the phenomena or concept.
3. During answering take care to explain any Physics involved and not just concentrate on mathematical steps.
4. You can even skip Maths steps to save time without losing much credit. For example you can avoid solving a differential equation and can quote the right remembered result. 5. At the end, always conclude your answer and explain the result.

What is the right time to begin preparation?
I would say May of the year preceding your exam year ideal. Try doing coaching for both optionals during that period and devote 4 hours each for each subject. (A study of 12 hours). In October join GS coaching and devote 4 hours for GS and 6 hours for 1 optional and 1-2 hours for second optional for next 3 months. That makes it January end. From February swap your optionals for next 2 months i:e Feb and March. From April till May prepare exclusively for pre After Pre devote 4 hours each for both optional and 2-3 hours for GS. Don’t join any coaching during this period. Just join test series.

BookList for Mains Paper I

1. Mechanics: Mechanics by D.S. Mathur
Classical Mechanics by J.C.Upadhyaya
2. Waves and Optics:
Optics by Ajoy Ghatak
Optics by B.S. Agarwal
3. Electricity and Magnetism:
Introduction to Electrodynamics by David J. Griffiths
Electromagnetic Theory by Chopra and Aggarwal
Electricity and Magnetism by D.C.Tayal
4. Thermal and Statistical Physics:
Thermal Physics by Garg, Bansal and Ghosh
Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory and Statistical Thermodynamics by Sears and Salinger

Paper II

1. Quantum Mechanics:
Quantum Physics by H.C. Verma
Quantum Physics by Resnick and Eisberg
2. Atomic and Molecular Physics:
Atomic and Molecular Spectra by Raj Kumar
Molecular Physics by Banwell
Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser
Quantum Physics by Resnick and Eisberg
3. Nuclear and Particle Physics:
Nuclear Physics by D.C. Tayal
Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser
Quantum Physics by Resnick and Eisberg
4. Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics:
Principles of Electronics by Mehta and Mehta
Introduction to Solid State Physics by Kittel
Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser
Quantum Physics by Resnick and Eisberg